Best Buddhism Books

Best Tibetan Buddhism Books

Katinka Hesselink, 2010-2017

Tibetan Buddhism is perhaps the best known type of Buddhism today, thanks to the Dalai Lama. I've found you the ten best and most popular books to get you started on understanding the tradition. From the Tibetan book of the Dead, to the Dalai Lama and Pema Chodron. From the mystery of Tibet as a holy land, to the practices, rituals and philosophy of this inspiring brand of Buddhism.

The Tibetan Book of the Dead

What's known as 'The Tibetan Book of the Dead' in the west, is really the 'Bardo Thodol', or the 'The Liberation Through Hearing During The Intermediate State'. The idea is that the person who died is in 'the intermediate state' - aka a bardo - and through hearing the text, will become enlightened and avoid having to reincarnate.

The text is also read to the dying, so they will be prepared for what's waiting for them on the other side.

The Tibetan Book of the Dead: The Great Book of Natural Liberation Through Understanding in the Between

Robert Thurman (Translator), The Dalai Lama (Foreword), Karma Lingpa (Collaborator) - THE TIBETAN BOOK OF THE DEAD (The Great Book of Natural Liberation Through

This book written originally by Padma Sambhava, is a great classic. Robert Thurman's translation does more than a literal translation, he also comments on the text to make it relevant in today's world.

Robert Thurman is one of the most prominent Western scholars of Tibetan Buddhism today and a personal student of H.H. the Dalai Lama.

Very popular with Amazon customers.

The Tibetan Book of the Dead: First Complete Translation (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition)

Graham Coleman (editor), Thupten Jinpa (Editor), Gyurme Dor (Translator), Dalai Lama (commentary)

One of the greatest works created by any culture and overwhelmingly the most significant of all Tibetan Buddhist texts in the West, The Tibetan Book of the Dead has had a number of distinguished but partial translations. Now the entire text has not only been made available in English but also in a translation of remarkable clarity and beauty.

Translated with the close support of leading contemporary masters, this complete edition faithfully presents the insights and intentions of the original work. It includes one of the most detailed and compelling descriptions of the after-death state in world literature, practices that can transform our experience of daily life, guidance on helping those who are dying, and an inspirational perspective on coping with bereavement.

The Tibetan Book of the Dead: The Great Liberation through Hearing in the Bardo (Shambhala Library)

Francesca Fremantle (Translator), Chogyam Trungpa (Translator)

This is my favorite translation of the Tibetan Book of the Dead. Trungpa Rinpoche and Francesca Fremantle bring scholarly precision, elegance, and a certain audacious directness to the text. The introduction and commentary are also first-rate. The pocket edition of the paperback is lovely airline reading, as it literally fits in your pocket.

There is an audio-version by Richard Gere (a student of the Dalai Lama himself), which is all the more special.

The Tibetan Book of the Dead: Or the After-Death Experiences on the Bardo Plane, according to Lama Kazi Dawa-Samdup's English Rendering


Dr. Evans-Wentz, who literally sat at the feet of a Tibetan lama for years in order to acquire his wisdom...not only displays a deeply sympathetic interest in those esoteric doctrines so characteristic of the genius of the East, but likewise possesses the rare faculty of making them more or less intelligible to the layman.

For a long thime this was THE translation of the Tibetan Book of the Dead, because it was the first. It was the reason the Tibetan is usually translated as 'The Tibetan Book of the Dead', inspired by the Egyptian Book of the Dead.

This is, for instance, the translation that inspired Jung.

Introduction into Tibetan Buddhism

Introduction to Tibetan Buddhism

By John Powers

In this concise though comprehensive work, Powers, a Tibetan Buddhist and professor of religion at Wright State University, begins to fill a void in the large corpus of literature on Tibetan Buddhism by grounding it in political and cultural experience.

He puts Tibetan Buddhist practice in the context of its own religious history as well as Tibetan political and cultural history. He discusses the festivals, holy days and religious symbolism of Tibetan cultural forms and of the power struggles and foreign influences that contributed to the institution of the Buddhist state.

He demystify Tibetan Buddhism, yet leaves intact the integrity of its practice. This is a valuable work for those looking to enrich their practice of Tibetan Buddhism and for students just seeking to deepen their understanding of it.

Includes a clear explanation of each of the four schools: Nyingma, Kagyu, Sakya, and Gelug.

My Journey to Lhasa: The Classic Story of the Only Western Woman Who Succeeded in Entering the Forbidden City

By Alexandra David-neel

The first woman who proved she entered the Forbidden City (aka Lhasa) was Alexandra David-Neel. A theosophist intent on finding out the truth of the teachings and meeting the Tibetan Masters herself, she did the unthinkable: she entered not just Tibet, but Lhasa itself.

This book is her famous story.

The World of Tibetan Buddhism: An Overview of Its Philosophy and Practice

By H.H. The Dalai Lama

Who better to introduce Tibetan Buddhism than the man himself, the Dalai Lama?

The book covers an overview of general Mahayana Buddhism, the importance of an altruistic life for spiritual practice, and the tantric practices of the Vajrayana Buddhism of Tibet. Originally a series of lectures, the three each chapters each end with a set of questions from the audience and the Dalai Lama's answers. The book also includes a glossary of selected Buddhist terms as well as an excellent bibliography and index. The Dalai Lama has provided a lucid and profound yet eminently readable introduction to this subject.

Best Dalai Lama Books List

The Dalai Lama is that unique mix of a spiritual teacher and a political leader. Unlike the Pope he is virtually uncontested as a spiritual inspiration.

Buddhist practice: reaching enlightenment, peace and happiness

The above are all books with either a historical or a textual focus. They may be written by Tibetan Buddhists, but their aim is not so much to help us on the spiritual path, as it is to inform.

The books below are different: they ARE meant to help you become a Tibetan Buddhist practitioner, fully awake, if they can help it.

The Jewel Tree of Tibet: The Enlightenment Engine of Tibetan Buddhism

Again by Robert Thurman

This book is a modified retreat transcript, so it has the strengths of an experiential emphasis. But it also is intelligent and quite readable. Thurman covers the entire scope of the Buddhist path from a Tibetan perspective, and he does this in the order that one would learn and practice these teachings developmentally. The reader is invited regularly to participate in the meditations along the way and to adapt them to his or her own religious background. But the book is also a lively guided tour with a number of brief visits to important teachings.So it progressively maps and highlights a path that actually takes years to experience. This is a classic approach, called Lam-Rim in Tibetan, that Bob Thurman makes accessible, even for beginners.

Taking the Leap: Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits and Fears

By Pema Chodron

Perhaps the most popular woman spiritual teacher today, Pema Chodron is even more of a towering figure in Tibetan Buddhism. This is her most popular book, and it really brings Buddhism home to us as an introduction into a spiritual path that we can practice right here, right now.

Famously recommended by Oprah Winfrey

See my full review

The Pocket Pema Chodron (Shambhala Pocket Classics)

The title speaks for itself: the best introduction into the teachings of Pema Chodron, the Tibetan Buddhist nun.

More books by Pema Chodron:

My personal reviews of Tibetan Buddhist Books